Monday, May 11, 2009

Wilson Lake MTB Trails

B-duh, B-duh… “Wiiil-sooooon”

With cancelled Arkansas plans, the GF stuck at work, and my work caught up, I found myself in the rare situation of having no obligations for the weekend. I said “No” to both the Joe Martin Stage Race and Syllamo and instead went to Wilson Lake. I’d heard about these trails many times but had never experienced them, so on Saturday morning I loaded up the MTB and a cooler of beer and headed west to bag me a Wilson.

I’m not a roadie- or so I used to say. Now I don’t know. What I do know is, my passion for biking comes first from mountain biking. But after 15 years of serious dirt lust, this spring I’ve thrown that aside in lieu of truly discovering the road in the form of racing for TCPC. Make no mistake, I’m hooked on road racing. But still my soul lives in the dirt and the longer I go without it, the emptier I feel. So, this weekend I popped open the tank and filled up on some dirt-loving good fun and came home feeling fresh, strong, and bright.

There are 15 miles of trails at Wilson split between three major loops with many cut-offs and bail-outs throughout the system. The trails are unique in that there really is no tree cover or vegetation to hinder your view. So, at any hilltop, you can see the trails strung out in all directions winding all over adjacent hillsides. If I had to describe the trails with one word, it would be “switchbacks”. Describing a jeep road in Colorado, C.W. McCall writes in a song that “it looked like a bunch of Z’s and W’s all strung together”-similarly, the trails at Wilson are a bunch of S’s and C’s all strung together. As far as I know I was the only rider on the trail on Saturday. Had there been others, we could have high-fived each other while riding on opposing sections of trail- that’s how much they fold back on themselves! That coupled with the fact that you can literally see miles of trail at a time makes for a strange experience.

It took me a few miles to catch the rhythm of the trail but once I did it was all smiles. It’s definitely not a place to test your top speed. There are way too many tight corners for that. Instead you want to push your speed to the brink of washing out and then stay just inside of that with kicks of the pedals coming out of each corner. There are a few sandy and rocky climbs but nothing of any serious length and, surprisingly, there are some fast and somewhat lengthy downhills. I especially enjoyed the slalom course through the limestone fence posts.

Incidentally, Wilson Lake is known as “The Clearest Lake in Kansas” and the lake, the rock formations, wildflowers, collared lizards scurrying about, and other wildlife make for a beautiful day of riding. Outdoor flushing toilets and showers with warm water made a great day grand. I can’t explain the tranquility and inspiration that comes from doing your business while starring up at blue skies and puffy white clouds.

“I must inquire Wilson, are you still having fun?!”

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